Monday, December 31, 2012

Happy New Year - Make the Most, 2 Thoughts Part 2

Sometimes we need a good excuse to stop, remember and dream.  The new year season gives us a great excuse.

Yesterday's post was about the importance of stopping to remember.

Happy New Years - Make the Most - Remember

Maybe 2012 is a year you would love to forget, but even in the midst of tough seasons those of us who are Jesus followers can get a glimpse of God's goodness.

After taking time to look back it's exciting to look ahead and dream.

Dream -

This is a little different than New Year's resolutions.  Resolutions aren't all bad but it seems planning might be more effective than promising.  As you dream about 2013 maybe you should go ahead and make sure you have time committed to follow through on your dreams.  For me this simply means making sure my dreams somehow make it to my calendar.

Here are some areas you may dream / think about.

What is your plan for personal devotions / worship next year?

It's a good idea to have an area of focus for your time alone with God.  For example, this year I read the Bible all the way through (almost, I'm a little behind).  Next year I'm thinking about focusing on the writings of Paul.  Two years ago I spent the year in the Psalms.  It's helpful for me to have a plan and keeps me more consistent which is a non negotiable for me.

If you're married and have a family, what are your dreams for your wife and kids?

My baby daughter will be graduating from high school this year.  Although my 3 sons no longer live at home they still very much need their dad.  This year Julie and I celebrate our 25th anniversary (I have to bring it).  Here's the bottom line, there's a lot to think and dream about.  What about you?

Is there an area of your life that's been neglected and needs attention?

I'm not sure what this might be for me (I'm spending time tomorrow to think and pray) but it's a question I will definitely be asking.  Sometimes we move so fast we don't stop long enough to ask God about the areas left unattended.

There are so many areas to think through.  Allow God to guide your heart and mind wherever he leads.  Be open to the areas he wants you to focus, you may be surprised as God continues to lead you on this journey.

Don't feel pressure to perform.  God's glory is the goal and he is the one who does his work in us to accomplish what he wants.  We simply get to joyfully be along for the ride.

Ephesians 3:20, 21

20Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, 21to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.

So, enjoy your time!  Let us know what you learn and experience.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Happy New Year - Make the Most, 2 Thoughts

I love New Year's celebration.  From the parties to boldly stuffing my eyeballs with college football.  It truly is one of my favorite holidays.

In the midst of all the festivities it's a great time to carve out an hour or two to remember God's faithfulness over the last 12 months and look forward to the next 12.

So here's my challenge, push the pause button on ESPN and use this time as an excuse to remember and dream.


Open up your calendar and look at all God has done in you and through you the last year.  Take time to really meditate and remember.  If there are pictures on your phone or Facebook, use them to jog your memory.

Don't be a Varuca.  Many times we can be like spoiled children, we receive God's blessing but take little time to remember and thank Him for his goodness.  It's good to give thanks and remember that every good and perfect gift comes from him.

Maybe 2012 is a year you would like to forget.  Even in the midst of loss and pain we can see flashes of God's goodness.  Remember.

I don't know about you but I have some regrets in 2012.  Perhaps there are attitudes or actions you regret, use this as an opportunity for confession and repentance.  God may use this time of remembrance to apply his mercy and grace in healing ways.

No matter the circumstances it's good to stop, remember and infuse the grace of God in your thoughts.  Be prepared to be surprised when you give time and space to reflect on all that happened in 2012.

Tomorrow we'll discuss dreaming / looking towards 2013.

And hey, Happy New Years!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Home For The Holidays - College Ministry Idea

This is isn't your grandfather's family reunion.

For the third year in a row we had rowdy college students at our home for our "Home for the Holidays" gathering.  It's a simple way to gather with students and see them reconnect with friends and yes, it really feels like the family reunion you would WANT to attend.

We don't do much, build some fires get some food and let them connect.

Our high school seniors are also invited.  We want them to begin the transition to college and see that although they may go away to college they still have a church family in Dallas.

By the way, can I tell you how rewarding and humbling it is to see and hear what God is doing in the lives of student?  Also seeing them connect with former small group leaders is priceless.

So, consider your own version of "Home for the Holidays".  It could end up being your favorite time of the year.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Student Ministries - Coming Together As ONE

Last night was an amazing time for students in our area.

Several churches moved away from issues that divide to focus on what it means to be ONE and have unity in Jesus.  There were Catholics, Baptists, Methodists, Bible Church and others who participated in a time of worship, giving attention to the Word and prayer.

Actually the event wasn't that complex or "cutting edge".  In fact, the simplicity was beautiful.

The worship team was from the host church but the rest of the stage team were youth pastors from visiting churches.  A pastor from the Bible Church spoke about Jesus' prayer for oneness in John 17 then another pastor led the students through a short prayer experience.

This is why the time was amazing.  In a day when many churches are competing and driven by consumerism and getting nickels and noses, the ONE service taught students how important unity is to Jesus.  Sure, each of these local churches have important distinctions, but it was nice to place the differences on the back burner and see Jesus as preeminent and the one who unites.

This service could only happen because the youth workers in our area trust one another.  Youth workers in our area only trust each other because we have relationship with each other.  We have relationship with each other only because we spend time together.

We're all busy, but we understand that being together is much better than operating alone.

Are you connected?  What if God used you to be a uniting force for student ministry in your particular area?

The best way to get started is to check out

The National Network of Youth Ministries exist to help youth workers like us connect with other youth workers in our area.  You don't have to be alone.

By the way, perhaps last night was an answer to Jesus' prayer, "make them one".  I believe He was praised and pleased.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Jumpstarting Student Leadership - The Big Game

As youth workers, part of our responsibility is to help students discover how God has gifted them and longs to use them for his glory.  If students are never in a ministry role or in a position where they recognize they need God it could be difficult for them to experience the joy of God working in them and through them.

Believe me, when a 17 year old student knows she is going to stand before her peers and teach the Bible, she becomes very needy!  Her time in the Word and her prayer life take on new meaning.  Our job is to remind students over and over again that Jesus provides the grace to serve and impact lives.

There are many approaches to student leadership development.  Most are good and should be considered and utilized from time to time.

An idea that results in great momentum and focus in student ministry is the "big game" approach.

As God gives vision for an event, gathering or trip, consider the possibility that students could be the leadership / servant team for that event.

For example, last month our ministry hosted a student led worship service for middle school and high school students.  Students led in most aspects including...

Developing a theme / topic for the event
Developing a prayer strategy
Creating a fun / welcoming environment

We began preparation 2 months in advance by meeting with our student advisory team.  After explaining the purpose for the event we discussed the message they would like their friends to hear.  As a team we settled with the idea that "true love and acceptance can only be found in relationship with Jesus".

As students settled into these teams they understood that God was going to use them to bring powerful ministry to their peers.  They planned, they prayed and then they led a great event fueled by God's grace and their excitement.  The student ministry staff didn't have to beg them to come and bring their friends, the students led the charge with an all out social media blitz.

Other "big games" may include leading VBS, a local service project or a mission trip.  This approach creates great morale, momentum and focus for a group of students as they realize they're not just watching ministry they're actually preparing for ministry.  They own it, they promote it and they get to enjoy the beauty and mystery of God using "the weak things" to accomplish his purposes.

Remember, this approach isn't about the event, it's about the process!  This is relational discipleship.

The "big game" gives an excuse to help students discover, develop and utilize their gifts.  As you meet with them and point them to Jesus they begin to lean into him and their faith is strengthened.

I've seen God use students in remarkable ways!  As students lean into Jesus and experience him working in them and through them they become more aware and dependent on the gospel in every day life.

So, if your wanting to get student leadership started in your context consider a "big game" approach. Be prepared to be surprised and amazed at how works in and through your students to bring glory to himself.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Put Me In Coach! 3 Questions To Ask When Considering Student Leadership

Your students are dying to get off the bench and into the game.

Why is church is the only place students are required to simply "sit and listen".  On school campuses students are involved in the school newspaper, sports team, band or color guard.  They're given responsibility and asked to perform at the highest level.

At church?  They're asked to sit, listen, learn and someday IN THE FUTURE make a difference.  They're told they are the church of the future.  Why is that?  What are we afraid of?

Of course it takes a lot of time and energy to prepare students for ministry but the benefits of taking the time and energy to help students discover, develop and utilize their gifts in ministry are extraordinary.

You might want to dream about adding or ramping up student leadership in your student ministry.

Here are 3 questions to consider.

1.  What can students do that you're currently doing?

The quick answer may be EVERYTHING, but you have to start somewhere.

What about coaching a student on how to give announcements at your ministry gathering?  Do you have students who are interested in video?  Maybe you should consider asking them to put announcements on video.  Let them be creative.

Here's the point, if your students have little to no leadership involvement in your ministry think of a couple of areas they can serve and start there.  From a prayer ministry to up front speaking, students can be coached to do incredible ministry.

2.  What can you learn from students?

When is the last time you sat with a few key students and asked them what they love about their student ministry?  If you don't ask them often if may be difficult for them to think that way.

By getting advice from students about their ministry consistently you learn a ton about how ministry is impacting students and you also create a great sense of ownership.  As old people we shouldn't automatically assume we know what's going on in the hearts and minds of our students.  It's a good idea to ask.

3.  Why take the time, energy and risk when you can do it better yourself?

Ok, that's a loaded question.  First and foremost I believe we have a Biblical mandate.  If you're a student ministry pastor or youth director Paul says your responsibility is to "equip God's people for works of service".

That verse is usually reserved for adults, but Paul makes no distinction.  Students are "God's people", therefore as pastors shouldn't we dream of ways we can prepare them to serve the church body and the world?

By the way, my experience is some students are far more gifted and effective than I am in certain areas of ministry (for some of you that's no surprise).  As a youth pastor there is little more satisfying than seeing students excel and be used by God to serve.

So, please, please, please consider how to get students in the game.  By developing a strategy that includes student leadership your ministry morale will increase, your discipleship will deepen and your entire church will benefit.

It's what God has called us to do.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Don't Waste Your Christmas - Via Advent

What are your plans to prepare your heart this advent season?  Please take advantage of this Christmas season to remember, meditate on and savor our newborn King.

The last 2 years I've used Shawn Smalls little book "The Via Advent" to ignite my heart and imagination towards the coming of our Savior.  Reading through this little book has brought to life the characters of the Christmas story in a way I could never imagine.

When included with daily scripture meditations, the short chapters are a great tool for daily time with Jesus.

Order it soon so you don't fall too far behind!

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

NYWC Random Reflections 2012

We are 10 days or so removed from the convention in Dallas.  In my experience it's important to drive some markers to remember all that God taught and inspired me to do and be as a result of this incredible time.

Sometimes experiences are very personal.  That's my take on the National Youth Workers's Convention, God had some themes especially for me.

As I've had some time and space to reflect here are 3 thoughts that linger.

1.  Being at the convention is almost like coming home

 I love being around hundreds of people who get who I am and what I do.

Youthworkers are the coolest people on the face of the planet.  Simply put, there were 2600 or so people in Dallas who love Jesus and love students.  Just to walk around the convention center and see so many people who work with students is amazing.  And by the way, it feels we (youth workers) are becoming more and more diverse.

With simply an eye test it seems there are just as many women as men.  There are older people (am I one of them?) and younger.  I'm a part of a diverse family of people who long to see the greatness of God declared to the next generation.  That's really encouraging to me.  It's always helpful to know we're not alone.

2.  I'm blessed to have deep friendships with great people.

One of the highlights for me was connecting with youth pastors, ministry leaders and others from around the country.  Over the years God has blessed me with connections with people who are smarter and more passionate than I.

Walking away better equipped and challenged to serve my church and youth ministry more effectively is one of biggest advantages of attending conferences.  Seminars and the big room are great, but for me equipping happens most in the context of a lunch or late night discussions with people I love and respect.

I'm a better pastor, ministry leader, husband and visionary because God has allowed me to experience deep relationships with people around the country.  I'm so thankful for these friends I get to see once or twice a year.

I need / want to pursue the people God has graciously brought in my path.  I am blessed.

3.  I'm thankfully called to student ministry.

Tony Campolo was awarded the lifetime achievement award from YS.  Mark asked why he was intentional about protecting time to speak into the lives of youthworkers when given so many other opportunities to speak to others.  His response was brilliant.

He referred to his role as a sociologist and understanding that the major decisions in life are made between the ages of 13 and 23.  This is when their future is shaped.

As a 45 year old youth worker I wonder about my future calling.  For now it's clear God wants me to invest significant time in the next generation.  For now I know I'm called to the next generation, it's in the fiber of who I am.

Thank you Tony for reminding us why what we do as youth workers is so important and strategic.

As I get older and more experienced I long to see life and ministry with a sense of WONDER and TEACHABILITY.  Thank you Youth Specialties for caring about the next generation and those who serve.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Pre - Convention Pep Talk

This afternoon I'm heading to downtown Dallas for the National Youth Worker's Convention.  I'm super excited to see old friends, hang out with my staff and learn from people who are smart and gifted.
It's going to be a super time but it's be a dangerous time for me.  Isn't that true of many opportunities?  The greater the potential the greater the danger. 

You see, I struggle like crazy with pride and arrogance.  It's easy for me to either feel a little better than others or super inferior.  If I'm not careful I can slip into the mode of comparing myself with everyone around.  I know!  It's horrible, but God's grace is good!

So, as I go into the weekend here are 4 ways I'm trying to maximize my time and walk away Sunday evening 
better equipped, more passionate for students and more in love with Jesus.

Think about my neediness...

I'm a needy man.  There's so much I need to learn and experience in order to grow.  As I navigate through the weekend my hands should be out asking for help and encouragement.  Thoughts like "been there done that" aren't very conducive to continued learning and growth.  It's exciting to think about what God is going to teach me about ministry, but also about my heart.  I'm praying for a soft / teachable heart.

Care and connect with others in need...

Student ministry can be difficult.  There will be youth workers at this convention who are struggling in their family, personal and ministry life.  There will be youth workers who feel they are about to be "let go".  There will be people who are stuck in their relationship with Jesus.  There will be youth workers who need freedom from deep sinful patterns.  As I embrace my neediness I hope I can be sensitive to others, listening more than speaking, encouraging more than seeking encouragement.

Write what I learn...

As God speaks to me over the next few days I'm committed to writing down what I'm hearing.  As you know, we all walk away from conventions feeling overwhelmed.  It's like a trying to take a sip from a fire hose.  Sometimes it helps to sort through all you're hearing by writing to make sure it gets deep into your heart and mind.

Have fun...

That's a given.  With my student ministry team there and friends coming in from all over the country I'm looking forward to all the connections.  Is there anything better than being with thousands of people who love Jesus and love students?  Youth workers definitely know how to bring on the fun.

BTW, I hope you're going to be here in Dallas.  If so, come with great hope and expectation.  Pray that God will have his way in your heart and the hearts of all who attend.

It's going to be an unbelievable weekend!

Friday, November 2, 2012

The Perfect Parent

Now that I’m on the downhill side of parenting (my kids range from a senior in high school to early twenties) I’ve been wondering what kind of dad I was.  Maybe some day I’ll have the courage to ask my kids what they think.  Maybe that should be today.

When I’m honest with myself I wish I had done so much more. 

I wish I had prayed more, cared more, spent more time, listened better, taught them more theology, and taken them to more movies or zoos or football games.  I wish I had encouraged them more, been stricter, been more lenient, handled my anger better and been more present at home at their school or in their rooms.

The list could go on and on.

The good news for me (and maybe for you) is this; I’m still a dad and have time to learn and grow.  Also, God is faithful.  He’s good to do his work in us and in our kids many times in spite of us.

As the sun is setting on time with my kids here are a few things I’ve things I’ve been thinking.  (sorry about all the “p’s”)


Parenting isn’t about finishing with a perfect product it’s about a process filled with pain and joy, victory and failure.  Much of my parenting experience has been about what God wants to do in me as much as about forming the hearts and minds of my children.  At the end of the day it kind of seems like they’ve taught me as much or more than I’ve taught them.

Parenting is a journey and perhaps God is more concerned about our faithfulness in the process than the perfection of our kids.


It’s so important.  My daughter is a senior in high school.  One of the highlights of my week is taking her to school (that’s why we haven’t given her a car).  She’s kind of quiet in the morning and many times there are as little as 10 words spoken as we drive through bustling Flower Mound.  But we’re together.  I’m present with her.  One day a week we stop at Starbucks on the way to grab some coffee.  She talks, I listen.  Presence.

My two oldest sons are in college in Georgia.  Presence with them is very different.  It usually involves long conversations on the phone talking about the deep important matters of life, Notre Dame football.  I know, not that important, but we’re present together.


More than ever before I’m committed to going before the throne of God on behalf of my kids.  As my time with them becomes less, the greatest impact I can have on their lives is to cry out to God on their behalf.  This isn’t meant to be over simplified or over spiritualized, it’s just true.  More than anything else I want my sons to grow to be men who love Jesus and my daughter to be passionate for Him.   Not much else matters.


There’s no doubt in my mind that I’m a less then perfect parent.  In fact, sometimes I just simply wasn’t that good.  But there’s hope for me and each of us who are navigating through the chaotic but beautiful journey of parenting. 

God is faithful!

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

"Deep" Teaching / Preaching. What is it?

Last night I had a great conversation with Matt.  He is one of IBC's super duper college ministry leaders and a seminary student.

We were talking about certain speakers and preachers and some were described as "not very deep".  So we started to ask the question, what is deep teaching?

Does depth come when you throw in a greek word here and there?

Is depth when you give lots of historical and cultural background?

Is it deep when you tell your listeners something they don't know?

Does talking for a long time and reading lots of scripture make a talk deep?

Does depth happen when those listening have their thinking challenged?

This morning some other questions started rattling around in my mind.  Is depth a sufficient goal for my speaking?  Do I want people to walk away after listening to me and say "wow, that was deep" or do I want them to walk away thinking / feeling / doing something else?

So how would you define "deep teaching"?  AND do you believe depth is a legitimate goal for speakers to have?

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Youthworkers, We Must Pull Together!

Sometimes the brightest events flow for the darkest hours.

The last week has been dark for Coppell, Texas.  Coppell is a small suburban town on the northwest side of Dallas and where many IBC (my home church) families live.  One week ago today (Sunday, October 14) we received information that a senior from Coppell High School was missing and feared dead after cliff diving at a nearby lake.

That evening hundreds of students gathered at the football stadium to pray for and remember Jacob Logan, starting safety for the Coppell Cowboys.

As you can imagine the next 2 days were spent counseling students, parents, teachers and our own hearts.  Events like these seldom make sense.  One junior girl told me that she didn’t blame God, but she wasn’t a real big fan of what he was doing.  I concur. 

By Tuesday afternoon the body of Jacob was still missing.  As we were praying for peace and closure the unthinkable happened.  Jonah Blackwell, also a senior at Coppell, took his life.

Tuesday evening, Wednesday morning and the rest of the week were spent trying to understand in my own mind what God was up to while answering tough questions from students.  You can imagine.

Is it ok for me to be angry with God?
Why is God doing this?
Of all the people, why does God take the best?

I have a lot of thoughts on grief and God and suicide and many other topics, but that’s not where this is going.

You see, although the week has been exhausting there have been some great things happen that wouldn’t have otherwise, not least of which is the simple and beautiful truth that I didn’t have to walk through last week alone.

The youth workers in and around Coppell have always liked each other and many times grabbed some coffee together.  But these events have brought us together in a fresh miraculous way.  From Baptist, to Church of Christ, to Methodist, to Non-Denom, to Catholics, we’ve basically walked this journey together.

I’ve been a youth pastor for 25 years and have advocated and begged for churches to work together for the sake of the community and the Kingdom, but I’ve never seen God do anything like this.

Sunday night at the football stadium, (the night Jacob went missing) I was not alone.  There were at least 10 of us together developing a game plan of how we were going to encourage one another along with hundreds of students. 

Monday morning at Coppell High School, I was not alone.  We were together loving and praying for students.

Tuesday night at the local pavilion, I was not alone.  While trying to comfort students who didn’t understand why a second friend was gone, we were there together.

Thursday morning at the memorial service for Jonah, I was not alone.  We were there together.

This short note from an area youth pastor echoes the heart of many youthworkers in our area.

Hey Team,

I wanted to send a follow up on the day since we were all going in the same but different directions yesterday.  Let us continue to be present on campus in the days to come.  I will be present at lunches for sure and we need to have some presence at New Tech as well.  I know we can't all be there all day but as you can swing by the campus please do so.  God orchestrated some Big things yesterday with Christian students stepping up and leading out in their classrooms and teachers and coaches being bold with the Gospel.  I am grateful for each and every one of you and your involvement yesterday and in the days to come.  God is BIG and yesterday He used each and every one of you in a unique and "just right" way.  We are all uniquely connected to the Logan family and/or the situation.  As a result we really need to be diligent to share information about search details, services details, kids who need care, adults or administrators who need care, organized vigils or gatherings so we are not competing with one another but coming alongside one another etc.  I am humbled to have linked arms to serve our God by serving our community together.  I am blown away at the reality that WE ARE BETTER TOGETHER.

I often times get caught up in the weekly stuff that I neglect building and maintaining relationships with those doing the same things in the same town.  Forgive me for not playing my part in galvanizing the group of youth workers around the cause of Christ in Coppell.  The ONE Network needs some new life and I am committing to help make that happen.  Who's with me?!


What we did together wasn’t really rocket science.  All you can really do during these times is be present, pray and listen.  That’s what we did and it was so good to do it together.

There’s a lot of work to be done in the next days and there are already dozens of stories I could share of how God is using all this for his fame and Kingdom, but the main story I want to tell is this.  There is power in churches and especially youthworkers coming together to serve with one heart.

I’m so thankful there was a great level of trust and relationship before all this went down and even more thankful those relationships have deepened over the last week.

So I have to ask.  Are you connected?  If and when (it will come) tragedy comes to your community will you be able to serve along side other youthworkers?  Can I encourage you to begin to lay the relational foundation now?  Reach out and spend time with other youthworkers in your area.

I don’t know how we would have dealt with the tragedy of last week if youthworkers were not willing and eager to work and pray together. 

We truly are better together.

BTW, if you want some great ideas about building a group in your community check out these videos from the National Network of Youth Ministries.  They're there to help.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Please Pray

Once again our community is grieving the loss of a teen.  Jacob Logan, a Coppell high school student, disappeared while cliff diving with friends on Sunday.

After spending the day with high school students at Coppell High School I'm so sad by what the students and the family have to experience.

Last night we had a time of prayer and worship at our church with students.  Our focus was to help them embrace this simple truth...God is great and God is good.  God is who he is in spite of our circumstances and feelings.  That truth is tough to embrace in times such as these.  To be honest, my faith struggles in times like this as well.  Pray that God would strengthen our faith.

Please pray that God will do what he does, take tragedy and turn it to beauty.  That's the story of the gospel and my hope is it will become the story of Jacob.

Thank you for praying.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Youth Ministry Unconference Cinci - What We Shared

Youth Ministry Unconference is a fresh new way to learn, share and grow in student ministry leadership.  It's unique in that it utilizes creative gatherings that place youth workers in venues where they can learn from others, share from experience and receive encouragement.  Youth workers of all levels of experience can be an incredible resource for one another.

YM Unconference was developed by Mark Matlock after seeing the benefits of this kind of format at the National Youth Workers Convention 3 years ago.  We launched YM Unconference in Dallas and found people around the country were interested in hosting.  After learning from Mark, we have had the privilege of serving youth ministry by facilitating several gatherings around the country.

Here are some principles that make YM Unconference unique.
  • There's no "hired gun" speaker.  Wisdom, encouragement and challenge flows from the collective wisdom of all the voices in the room.
  • It's super low cost.
  • Relationship is king.  There are great friendships created and deepened and space given to those relationships.
  • It's God dependent.  Sure there's a plan, but there's plenty of flexibility that gives freedom to follow the heart of God.  Discussions are determined by conference attendees.
  • The gathering is always surprising.  It's amazing what comes from the hearts and voices of everyone in the room.  I never cease to be amazed.
You see, every person called to serve teenagers has unique perspective and experience others need to hear.  Older and more experienced youth workers need to hear from the young.  The young need to hear the wisdom of those who are older.  And every person called to minister to teens needs to continue to learn and grow in their ministry effectiveness.  It's this teachable and humble DNA that drives the heart, spirit and effectiveness of YM Unconference.

Last weekend I had the privilege of participating in YM Unconference Cincinnati.  We gathered on Friday morning through early afternoon and then again on Saturday morning.  There was a a lot of diversity in the room.  There were men and women, old and young, urban and suburban, experienced youth workers and rookies, payed and volunteer.  This diversity feeds the richness of the shared experience.

Here are some themes that rose to the surface.  Each of these were discussed in detail and depth.  Although much of this may not be new, it's always important to grow in these areas.

  • Youth workers need to be wisely transparent in their relationships with students.  
  • Perhaps there needs to be more attention give to time with students over producing a "show" for students.
  • When spending time with students learn how to ask great questions to get beneath the surface.  
  • The unique needs of todays teens are not that different from what todays youth workers struggled with as teens.  (and struggle with now)
  • We need to be creative in connecting with teens after they graduate high school.  Incredible ideas were shared about how this might happen in urban areas.
  • Creating a culture of discipleship is key in seeing all students grow in their faith.  This culture must have just enough structure to unleash relationship.
  • As youth workers, our connection to Jesus is key.
I walked away from Cincinnati refreshed, encouraged and challenged.  As a 25 year veteran of student ministry I need these environments to learn and grow.  And who knows, maybe I was able to share something that encouraged others.

Thank you Greater Cincinnati Youth Network for hosting!

Monday, October 1, 2012

Questions for Potential Speaking Engagement

Every once in a while I have an opportunity to speak at different venues.  From one day conferences to parenting seminars to retreats, whatever the venue I want to serve people well.

Sometimes you can feel like you're shooting in the dark when you walk into an unfamiliar place with unclear expectations.  My heart is to serve each group as effectively as possible.  So with that in mind here is a list of questions I'm thinking of sending potential groups.

Are there any question I'm not asking I should?  Is there any question you wouldn't ask?  By the way, this also helps me think through information that needs to be given to speakers we bring in.  What do you think?

Main contact person / information.

 Date / Dates of speaking engagement?


 Is there a theme / topic picked?

 Number of talks?

 Amount of time for each talk?

 Age range?

 Any information you can share about the audience that might be helpful?

Available audio / visual resources?

Are you able to pay for all expenses?

What is your budget for honorarium?

What have you seen speakers do in the past that you really appreciated?

What have you seen speakers do that has frustrated you or that you wished they did differently?

Expectations beyond up front communication? 

Thanks for any input you can give.  I love this shared wisdom thing!

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Hey Youthworker - Be Encouraged

It's a bitter sweet time of year for those of us who work with students.  

There's excitement and anticipation for the fall with all the students who are back in town but also sadness for those who have been with us who are leaving for college or the next phase of their lives.

I wanted to share this with all of you who work with students.  These notes are on our high school Facebook page.  Just take out "IBC" and put the name of your church in it's place.  Students feel this about your ministry even if you aren't hearing it.

"Time has come for me to depart from here. I want to thank every single one of guys for being in my life. This ministry is something special, and i know god is really doing some great things. To the leaders, thank you for everything y'all have done. And to my peers, thank you for being really awesome friends. And to all of y'all, thanks for putting up with me! I love y'all and god bless."

Hey IBC! Tomorrow morning I'm leaving for college and I just wanted to say one last goodbye! I'm headed down to Texas A&M to study Physical Education, and see what God has for me next according to His plan! I love you all so much, and you I am so blessed to have had you in my life. IBC changed my life and brought me so close to our amazing God! I hope and pray that God blesses me with another church community like y'all. I will be praying for all of you, and I can't wait to see where God takes this ministry next! He is so alive in you, and He has even bigger and better things coming! So, goodbye for now! God bless you all! And if any of you are ever near A&M, come visit me! Love you! :)

Hey guys!,
Along with all the other seniors I am heading out tomorrow morning, and I wanna ask you for your prayers. If y'all don't know already I am terrible when it comes to change or saying bye. It has been really hard these past couple days, and I know it will only get harder when I am actually gone. I really need God to give me strength and peace when I leave and move on. I wanna say I have gone to IBC my entire life and there is no church that compares. I have loved this passed year getting to lead y'all the best I could as a Senior, and I know God has HUGE plans with IBC youth ministry. Thanks for being amazing and don't stop living for him everyday! I love each and everyone of you! Anytime you are in San Marcos or the Austin area and don't have a place to crash call me and/or Rachael Tanner up and we will be glad to have you as a visitor, or you know we can go get some froyo or something:) God bless IBC youth ministry! LOVE YALL!♥

Hey everybody. I never dreamed of the day that I wouldn't belong to IBC High School, but unfortunately that day draws near.If you don't already know, I am leaving for the great state of North Carolina tomorrow morning to begin passionately studying and doing what I love which is filmmaking. I get to go off to school to do what I love, how cool is that?
Anyways, I'll keep this short. I want to thank you guys for the gift of friendship you all have given me over the last four years, some of you even longer. The tight-knit community that this family holds together is paralleled by none. You guys are the coolest kids on the block, and I'm glad to watch you guys flourish into what God always intended us to be: in community with one another.

Hello friends, I am heading to Oklahoma tomorrow and will be moving in on Thursday. I'm too wired to sleep and I feel kind of sick to my stomach and would really appreciate prayers for my nerves, emotions, safety, and smooth sailing for the transition as a whole as I go through rush and start classes and all that good stuff. I love you guys and am so blessed to have been a part of such a special group all these years. I will miss you all and can't wait to visit when I'm home! Please keep in touch :)

Be encouraged.  God is using you to make an impact even if you don't hear it very often.  Hang in there!

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Gay and Kicked Out

I ran into a college aged friend the other day.

Over the years I discovered she's one of the smartest people I know.  She's thoughtful, honest and passionate.  Every time I'm with her I learn something about God, life and myself.  She also happens to be lesbian.

We hadn't spoken to each other in a long time and in an attempt to casually catch up I simply asked her how her summer was going.  I should have known better.  She's not the kind of person who keeps things "casual".  Of course she got right to the point.  That's one of the many reasons I love her and always enjoy spending time with her.

"Summer has been tough.  I was kicked out of my church because I couldn't say I was a heterosexual woman."  As she told me what had happened there was very little emotion in her voice but I could tell from her eyes she felt incredibly misunderstood, unloved and rejected.

My heart hurt for her.

Ok, I know there are at least 2 sides to every story.  Perhaps someone is totally justified in asking her not to come back to church.  I should give her former church the benefit of a doubt.  But really?  Kicked out of church?

So many thoughts rushed to my mind.

Was this particular church kicking men and woman addicted to porn out of the church?

Are they kicking unrepentant gossips out of the church?

Are they kicking people out of the church who are addicted to their own pride and not willing to deal with it?

Are they kicking people out of the church who are greedy and not generous with their possessions?

Are they kicking people out of the church who are consistently hypocritical?

Perhaps someone patiently and lovingly pointed her to truth.  Maybe there are people walking through life with her and encouraging her.  She could have misunderstood what was said to her.

And so, I come back to the fact that I don't know the whole story but it made me wonder about me and my church.  How are we doing loving people where they are?

The church has been called by God to love every person where they are and patiently help them move towards the heart of God.  The church should be a place where people can come just as they are and freely engage with truth in an environment of love and acceptance.

As I try to believe the best about my friend's church my interaction with her drives me to pray for and hopefully influence my church to love people who enter our doors...just the way they are.  We must be a place where the any person can come to find hope and healing.

Jesus said it best...

And Jesus answered them, "Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick."  

That's the way Jesus loves each of us and if there's anyone who needs healing it's me.  I need the great physician.

May our church and churches everywhere learn to accept people where they are.  It's not always nice and antiseptic but it's what Jesus longs for his church to be.

Chime in if you would...

Thursday, August 9, 2012

What Should Young Leaders Do?

I need your help.

I have the privilege of speaking on the topic of "leadership and student ministry" with some college students who will most likely be youth pastors.

We'll be covering topics like...
* Leading Your Own Soul
* Leading Parents
* Recruiting, Training and Shepherding Adult Leaders
* Student Leadership - Helping Students Discover, Develop and Utilize Their Giftedness

Part of the day we will discuss general leadership, sharing 5 things all young leaders should do.  My desire would be to challenge and inspire them to think through practical leadership habits most in their early 20's wouldn't think about.  I hope these leadership principles will be radically practical.

This is where you come in, if you're involved in leadership, especially ministry leadership, could you share your top 5?  Perhaps thinking about what you wish you knew about basic leadership when you were younger?  Or, if you work with younger leaders, what do you wish they would know and do?

Here are a couple examples.

Leaders should communicate clearly to a variety of audiences.  Example, when planning a mission trip, what should be communicated to which audiences.

Leaders should follow through.  You have to finish what you start.

Thanks for your help.  You may or may not receive a huge prize if I use one of your leadership principles.  It's cool to tap in to your vast wisdom and experience!

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Repulsed and Repulsive

I've been in Honduras since last Saturday and today spent my last day in Comayagua.

I came across a man that was absolutely grotesque.  To be honest it was difficult to even look at him.  He had one arm and half his face seemed to be missing.  His whole body from head to toe was deformed beyond what I’ve ever seen.  He was obviously dirty and very poor which is common for beggars in Comayagua.

I’m not sure what he said but I’m assuming he needed money.  I’m so ashamed of my response.  Instead of loving him and giving him enough for a meal I was repulsed. 

I don’t give to every beggar who asks but typically there’s a reason.  This was different.  I didn’t give to him because I didn’t want to deal with what was standing before me.  It was difficult for me to face him and interact with him on any level.  So I simply said, “I’m sorry” in my broken Spanish and turned away.

After and hour or so I began to feel convicted, not in an unhealthy way but in a gentle loving Holy Spirit kind of way.  It’s as if I knew I missed an opportunity to love and serve the way Jesus would. 

Jesus said if you do it to the least of these you have done it unto me.  If there ever was a "least" this man was it.  I really missed an opportunity to humbly serve Jesus.  For that I am so sorry.

One more thing, I’m so thankful Jesus loved and loves me enough to look at me even with my grotesque sin.  He doesn’t simply say, “I’m sorry” and turn away, he always gives what is needed when we ask no matter how we look or act.

Here’s my prayer, may we be a people who love the unlovely no matter what they have done or what they look like.  And not just in Honduras but where we live most everyday.  May we see the way Jesus sees, serve the way Jesus serves and love the way Jesus loves.  Amen

Sunday, July 22, 2012

IBC Beach Camp 2012

It always happens.  Summer comes and goes and you wonder where it went.  I can be guilty of moving so fast I forget to push the pause button and think about all God is doing, that’s certainly the case for our middle school and high school camps.

This year was a little different for me.  I was at the beach camps in a support / oversight role and less of a hands on role.  Being in that role allowed me to see from a different perspective.  

Here are 3 quick (well, maybe not so quick) observations from our middle school and high school camps.

First of all, our student ministry staff is passionate for Jesus and kids.  Trey and Sasha (our middle school and high school pastors) both exhibited a huge heart for students as they led throughout the week.  Their ability to discern how God is moving and lead effectively was amazing.  I can’t say enough about Mary Ann.  She stayed the whole week and served well to make sure everything ran smoothly.  God has blessed IBC with a gifted staff and interns who long to see God change students from the inside out.  Our team isn’t satisfied with behavior modification, they long to see life transformation that only comes through the supernatural work of the gospel.

And wow, our adult volunteers.  From our kitchen crew to our small group leaders, camp doesn’t happen without them.  You have to eat don’t you?  Lisa Elliot, Jill Asibelua and Pat O’Reilly stayed for both camps and served meals the entire time.  What a blessing to have them take care of physical needs so the others could focus on the spiritual.  Leaders like Stephen Dean have been with their group of students since middle school, they have now graduated and he spent this camp continuing to point them to Jesus.  His faithfulness has proven to be so important in their lives.  Godly adult leaders are always key for effective ministry at IBC, this year’s camp was no different.

Finally, we have a unique group of students.  David Mcneely, our high school camp speaker, kept sharing with me and others how unusual (in a positive way) our students are.  As you listen to their stories it becomes obvious that God has and is doing something powerful in them and through them.  Five of our high school students stayed for the  middle school camp to serve as small group leaders.  Watching them serve and pastor those a little younger was a highlight for me.  It’s refreshing not only to see them passionate about Jesus as they worship, but also to step away and see God’s faithful work happen in their lives over time.  He is good.

These few verses seem to sum up much of what I’m feeling and experiencing.  Romans 12 was taught in the main sessions but this Psalm seemed to keep working it’s way into our conversations.

Psalm 145
3 Great is the Lord and most worthy of praise;
his greatness no one can fathom.
4 One generation will commend your works to another;
they will tell of your mighty acts.
5 They will speak of the glorious splendor of your majesty,
and I will meditate on your wonderful works.
6 They will tell of the power of your awesome works,
and I will proclaim your great deeds.
7 They will celebrate your abundant goodness
and joyfully sing of your righteousness.

God is using IBC to speak of the greatness of God to the next generation.  The next generation isn’t just next it is current.  As we faithfully invest in their lives they in turn will “speak of the glorious splendor of your majesty”.

For those of you who prayed, thank you so much.  Through praying you were a huge part.  God truly did a unique work and will continue to move.

Friday, June 8, 2012

The Gospel Where People LIve, Work and Play

A friend sent this video to me the other day.  I can't tell you how much the discussion resonates with my heart to equip God's people to live out the gospel where they live, work and play.  

For adults in their work place and for students on their campus, if we can equip and inspire them to simply live their lives the way Jesus teaches it could change the world.


Monday, May 21, 2012

Student Led - Family

Our Students put this together in one afternoon on our student leadership retreat.  They put together a worship service that centered on the idea of "family".  They led the service on the final morning of the retreat.

I'm kind of proud.

Other students prepared and gave the talk out of Romans 12, some led worship, some did tech and others prayed.  It's amazing what students can and will accomplish when given the opportunity.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

2 Thoughtful Articles About Christians and Same Sex Marriage

I’m in many conversations right now about gay marriage.

As one who is passionate about the next generation, I seek to be attentive to issues that involve marriage and family.  Here are a couple of articles that may help frame discussion if people are asking you about it.

May we be those who thoughtfully consider how the gospel interacts and transforms the world around us.  It’s a great time for truth, grace and balance.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Quote of the day - Gospel - Humility

Gospel-humility is not needing to think about myself. Not needing to connect things with myself. It is an end to thoughts such as, ‘I’m in this room with these people, does that make me look good? Do I want to be here?’ True gospel-humility means I stop connecting every experience, every conversation, with myself. In fact, I stop thinking about myself. The freedom of self-forgetfulness. The blessed rest that only self-forgetfulness brings.

Timothy Keller

Monday, April 30, 2012

Guiding Principles for Next Gen Ministry

This morning all our next generations staff is pulling together.  This would include all children's ministry staff, student ministry staff, young adult staff and our single parent coordinator.

A far as I an tell this will be the first time all of us have been in a room together.

Here's our plan.  We've been working on a list of guiding principles that will shape what we do and how we do it.  Our hope is that these principles will run like a common thread through all age groups as we hope to launch passionate Godly people into young adulthood.  It's also important to us that families know we're on the same page working towards the same goals.

As you know it's so easy to work separately and barely even know what's going on with other areas of ministry.  We're trying hard to work together, appreciate one another and compliment each other's ministries.

So, here's what we have so far.  These are in wet concrete and my guess is we will add something on outreach / evangelism.

Because every age group benefits from exposure to other generations,
we value thoughtful opportunities for intergenerational connections.

Because true life change happens primarily in the context of relationship,
we value life on life ministry driven by loving connection.

Because Jesus revealed moralism cannot save us,
we value teaching that centers on the transforming gospel of grace.

Because God’s Word is living and active,
we value Biblical Truth that sets us free.

Because growing in Christ results in compassion for others,
we value equipping children, youth and adults to serve our Body and the world.

Because a vibrant relationship with God is more often caught than taught,
we value leadership that models an authentic walk with Jesus.

Because parents have a major role in the discipleship of their kids,
we value partnerships with parents, including parental involvement and equipping.

So, we could use your help.  What would you add?  What would you change?  What seems to be 

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Tapping the Brakes on the "Family Based Ministry" Movement

I believe in family.

There's no doubt churches including children's ministries and student ministries should invest in equipping and shepherding parents. In fact, at my home church, Irving Bible, we just started "Parenting at IBC" with the hope we can serve and equip parents of all aged kids. It's important to me.

The question I would like to ask is this, should the nuclear family be the primary focus of our next generations ministries? If so why?

Yesterday I sat in a family based ministry one day gathering. It was assumed that ministry should be family focused and family centered. It was assumed that all our time, energy and focus should be family based.  So many questions came to my mind.

Today I did some web surfing to see if I could discover how some are defining and describing family based ministry. Here are some statements I read.

"We know from reading the scriptures that families are important to God because our Creator built the first family before he constructed his own church".

Of course families are important to God but really?  Does that mean God values plants and animals before people because he made them first in creation?  Did Jesus actually prioritize the family by saying, "I will build my nuclear family, and the gates of hell will not prevail against it"?

"Although there may be a few youth outings each year where most parents are not present, most youth outings will be the family outings where all of the family is invited"

Maybe that should be flipped.  It's cool and valuable to have parents engaged in outings with their kids, but what about the kids who have parents who aren't ready to step foot in the church?  Awkward.

"Family Based Youth Ministry is grounded upon the Biblical conviction that parents are the primary disciplers of their children"

Why is this assumed? Is this true for every church ministry in America?  There's really a "Biblical conviction" about this?

Sure, family based ministry is effective and needed in some churches but with several books about family based ministry, various conferences and curriculums it simply seems many view this ministry strategy as right for all people and all places.

Why does the ministry pendulum have to be so extreme?  Why is it that children and youth ministries are totally separate from the rest of the church OR we must say that our primary focus is the nuclear family?  Is there a healthy balance in the middle?  

As I'm pulling embryonic thoughts together I would like to share some reasons I think we must tap the brakes on this "family based model" thinking. Instead of assuming family based ministry is right for all situations, here are some thoughts to consider.

1) The Bible doesn't teach that parents are the primary disciplers of their kids.

Of course Godly parents have the greatest opportunity to disciple their children, but do we really have to say the church is secondary?  Perhaps we should think of it as opportunity instead of priority.

There are a couple of passages that seem to be the "go to" in this area.

I've heard it over and over again, Deuteronomy 6 is the Biblical foundation of family based ministry. Here's the problem, Deuteronomy 6 was not written just to the parents, it's written to the covenant people of God. Of course parents were a part of that, but not the only part.  Not to mention that family in that context was very different from what we experience today.

When we read Deuteronomy 6 through our 21st century western eyes and see, "teach it to their children" somehow we forget the first part of the passage. It says "Hear O Israel" not "Hear O Mom and Dad".

And of course there is Ephesians 6:4 which specifically mentions the role of the Father to bring up his children in the training and instruction of the Lord.  It's an important verse for parents to think through and heed, but it in no way says gives the parents the primary voice.

In the early years of a kid's life parents have the strongest voice but to use these verses as proof texts to focus all of next generations ministry on parents is questionable Biblically.

In reality scripture does not give a greater responsibility to the family than the church. As families are a part of the church one could argue the church is the primary discipler of people. The church is called to disciple all that are a part of the church family not just parents.

Do parents need to understand their crucial role in spiritual formation?  Yes, but as a part of the greater covenant family.

In the scripture there's no primary or secondary discipleship, there's just discipleship.  

2) Family based does not fit all ministry contexts.

Family for most of us in upper / middle class white churches experience family as a mom, dad and 2 1/2 kids (I've always felt sorry for the 1/2 kid). That's not what many next gen ministries look like, especially student ministries.

Youth group should be a place where students should be accepted where they are. Hopefully unchurched students from unchurched families are showing up to experience authentic loving community. Hopefully that community includes students and loving ADULTS who love Jesus.

Maybe we have a chance to get to know the parents of unchurched students maybe we don't, but if our ministry is primarily family based and parent focused where do unchurched kids fit in? What about churches where a majority of the students come from unchurched homes?

In the New Testament, "family" rarely refers to the nuclear family, it almost always refers to the spiritual family or the church.  In fact it seems that when Jesus mentions moms and brothers and sisters he seems to say the spiritual connection may be stronger than the physical one.

There are a lot of ministry contexts where it's not practical to spend all our time and energy reaching out to parents.  Yes, make the effort, but if God has placed a group of kids in front of us let's be obedient to his call to disciple the ones right in front of us.

3) Family based ministry seems to neglect evangelism

Maybe I have this wrong, but this ministry strategy seems to emphasize a "circle the wagons" type strategy.  We'll minister to the parents and trust them to disciple their kids.  It feels like an "inside the walls" focus.

Where does the missional component fit into this strategy?  Children and student ministries should always have the component of reaching out to those children and youth who are unchurched and inviting them into the covenant family.

4) Intergenerational ministry NOT family based ministry seems to fit the Biblical model and most cultural contexts

The family of God is a beautiful mixture of ages, maturities and stories. It seems that God's design is for a diverse people to live life together and encourage one another while being on mission.  I love the idea of all kinds of adults speaking into the lives of youth and children, not primarily their parents.

As a father, sometimes I'm the one most equipped to speak truth into the lives of my kids.  As my kids became older other adults were better positioned to share truth.  They quickly became the primary disciplers of my children.

To this day I appreciate the natural partnership the church has had with my family.  Sometimes the best thing I can do is get out of the way and allow the body of Christ to play a major role in discipling my kids.  My relationship with the church has provided a way for my children to hear truth in stereo;  me speaking truth in one ear and other caring adults speaking truth in the other.

In closing let me say that as a father of 4 I've never felt I should totally leave it to the church to disciple my kids, I need to do that. But as a youth pastor I've never felt I should leave it to the parents to disciple kids, as the church, I'm called to do that.

You see, it's a partnership.  It's not about separating kids from adults OR doing everything with and for parents.  Do I long for parents to be equipped and do a better job? Yes.  Am I going to leave it to parents and neglect my role as a pastor in discipling kids, no way.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

3 All Time Greatest Clips for Student Talks

Back in the day (20 years ago) it seemed you had to have a video illustration for any youth talk you did.

Oh how times have changed.

Now it seems better to use almost nothing when you speak, however sometimes you find just the perfect clip that drives home an important point.

So, with that in mind I thought we would take a trip down memory lane. Here are what I believe are the 3 greatest clips of all time for youth talks. Yes, these are old school and yes, I'm old. But anyway...

When this movie came out I had young boys who played baseball. I love this movie and particularly this clip. Over the years I've used this to inspire students to pursue others who are different and help them feel welcomed.

Tomorrow morning I'm using it as an illustration of how God longs to use us and says to us, "just put your hand up, I'll do the rest". He does take the ordinary person and makes them extraordinary.

OK, beyond being unbelievably funny this is a great clip. It's a halarious illustration of how a hypocritical person says one thing but believes and feels another. It resonates with students because they all have "friends" (notice the sarcasm) who say one thing and do another.

It shows how ridiculous we as Christians look when we raise our hands and sing passionately but our lives show no reflection of that passion.

Ok, I didn't find the exact clip but this is a powerful movie. It illustrates how most of us live, as if God is not satisfying enough.

Seth, the angel gives up eternity and God so he can have Meg Ryan's character. The movie is the total opposite of "Better is one day in your courts than a thousand elsewhere".

The best scene is at the end of the movie where Seth says he would rather have one kiss of her lips than eternity without it. He trades God for a girl. In a different way, we trade God for momentary pleasure all the time don't we?

No, I don't feel the pressure to find the perfect clip for a talk anymore, but it's still fun to think it through and very effective when the clip hits the bullseye. Just because the newness of technology has worn off doesn't mean we shouldn't utilize it when it serves the message.

Anyway, that's the best I have (or can remember).

What would be your top 3?

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

You might be event driven if...

Whether they realize it or not, most student ministries I encounter lean towards being relationship driven or event driven.

 In my opinion the most effective ministries are driven by relationship. A majority (if not all) of student ministry leaders would claim that relationship is their philosophy and drives their ministry.  But the question for each of us is this, does our philosophy match our practice?

By relationship driven I mean staff or ministry leadership spending significant time recruiting, equipping and shepherding other adults and unleashing them to live life to life with students.

 Relational driven ministry is most effective when adults who love Jesus are spending intentional time with students, not simply teaching them information but really involved in their life.

There is tremendous Biblical support for this ministry philosophy. From Jesus to Paul, this is the way they lead and poured into others. This has been my ministry philosophy for 24 years.

The question for myself and others is simple,

do we say we are relationally driven
but execute a different ministry philosophy practically?

Here's the problem.

Many times we don't get "graded" based on how well relationship is growing in our ministry. Often we are seen as successful when there are tons of students in one place at one time and the programming is slick and inviting. Often we are graded on how effective our "talk" is and how students, parents and peers view our ability to communicate.  How we perceive we are graded drives how we spend our time and energy.

Don't get me wrong, if we're doing large group programming it should be done with the highest level of excellence, but many times the tail wags the dog.  Before we know it our desire to have the right event steals time from where we know life change is really going to happen, knee to knee, nose to nose and face to face.

My passion for relationship driven ministry has recently been renewed.

This year I'm leading a group of 9th and 10th grade guys and to be honest time with them seems to have more impact than 5 of my talks combined. We meditate on the Word, talk about how it applies to our life and pray for each other. They ask great questions and I'm blown away by their desire to please the Lord.

For years I have been afraid that I talked about discipling students and pursuing them relationally without really putting my money and time where my mouth is.

So how do we know if we're prioritizing events and neglecting relationship? 

Sometimes it's not that easy to tell if you're event driven. In a desire to help us think through where we are in the event verses relational tension I've come up with a way to process.

You've heard "you might be a redneck if" by our friend Jeff Foxworthy, well, here's a student ministry version to help you think through your own ministry.

You might be event driven if...

you spend a majority or your time with students

I know, you're in student ministry to hang with students right? The simple truth is you don't have the ability to connect with every student in your ministry at a deep level. Believe it or not there may be someone who connects with a student in your group better than you. True relational ministry spends intentional and organic time with adults who are relating to students.

If all your time is spent with students then perhaps YOU are relational, but most likely you're not leading a relationship driven ministry. Take some time to look at your calendar. How much of your schedule is devoted to spending time with your leaders? No matter how large or small your ministry is, trained adult leaders are the key to relational ministry.

You might be event driven if...

you spend more money on pyrotechnics and moving lights than adult leaders

A couple years ago I looked at my budget and saw that a large percentage of my money was going to trips, retreats and events. Very little of it was going to nurturing and training my adults. Of course we need money for trips, they can be the most relational part of our ministry, but if your budget is dominated by special speakers, new lights and tee shirts with little to no money for adult leadership development you might have fallen victim to event driven ministry.

What about setting aside some money for them to take students for coffee? What about some money to take them out to dinner to get to know them better and show appreciation. You could perhaps bring a speaker in to train and inspire your adult leaders. If you're relationship driven put your money where your mouth is.  Spend some of your budget on adults.

You might be event driven if...

50% or more of your week is spent in event planning and implementation

Again, gatherings must be done with excellence, that means careful planning. Your teaching should be Biblical and engaging but balance is the key. If it's taking more than half your time to pull off great programming, maybe you should consider changing how often you offer events.

When pulling off great events robs you of time and energy something has to give. Does the event win or does relationship win?

You might be event driven if...

your small group ministry meets at 8:30am Sunday

When do your small groups gather? Are you giving them prime time and prime attention or are they meeting when no student will show? We need to ask the question, "if we could only do one thing in our ministry, what would that one thing be?". And then, "if we only had one time to do it, when would it be?"

I've talked to youth workers who claim their relationally driven small groups are the most important piece of their programming, yet their small groups don't meet at the best possible time. Prime time is different for different places and ministries, find out what is prime time for you and place your most important piece of programming at that time.

Your might be event driven if...

you just remembered you have a leader's meeting...tomorrow

Ok, we've all been there. Things sneak up on us but what if we spent as much time and energy planning and pulling off leader's meetings as we do student gatherings?

Your leaders need constant connection and training. They don't want another meeting but gathering together is a priority. If and when we pull them together they should never be able to legitimately say the gathering was a waste of time. Think through your gathering times and make sure they're inspiring, shepherding and effective.

So there you have it. May we be leaders who constantly walk up hill in pursuing relationship as the greatest key to ministry effectiveness. Let's do great events but not at the expense of relationship.

What would you add?  Do you feel the "event vs. relationship" tension?